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Menopause in the Workplace: Navigating Challenges and Practical Solutions


woman at work with menopause

I wasn't in a corporate work place when I hit the worst of my perimenopause symptoms but I do wonder if it is the reason I left. I felt exhausted. I couldn't keep up the relenting long hours and stress as I had done throughout my 30s; I was 44 when I left. I felt relief and thought things would get better, then life stress intervened and symptoms really started to show. Luckily I had a sympathetic boss who didn't have a clue about the menopause but was openminded, willing to explore options and support me and wasn't too hard on me. I was my own boss, but I really appreciate that if you work for someone else, it becomes very difficult. If you're not performing as they expect you to based on your prior work that this not only becomes an issue for your health and your mental wellbeing, it can also cause an issue within the workplace and could jeopadise your career. I see many women in this state, who reach out for one-to-one support, as they have reached this point. This month's blog is to help support you with your Menopause in the Workplace: Navigating challenges and practical solutions. For any woman, in any job at any age.



Menopause in the workplace: Navigating challenges and practical solutions.

Menopause is a transformative phase of life that I am still experiencing, 8 or so years on from my very first symptoms. It's a topic close to my heart because I deeply understand the unique challenges it brings, especially when it comes to the workplace when there isn't a leniency of self employment. Firstly let's shed light on the realities of menopause in the professional world by drawing upon these startling statistics from a sample of 4,000 working women. Then I'll give you some advice on how to negotiate this time when you're feeling low and exhausted, it's imperative that women are given the best chance to succeed in work especially with retirement now extended to 67. If the affects of menopause are not understood and resolved then there is very little chance of women making it fulltime to this age!


The Harsh Reality: Menopause and Its Impact in the Workplace


Let's begin by delving into the stark numbers, as they reveal a story that urgently needs to be heard:


Performance Affected: A staggering 44% of women aged 45-55 report that menopause has a significant impact on their job performance. This includes struggles with concentration, memory lapses, and the relentless pursuit of a good night's sleep.


Sleepless Nights: Insomnia, the constant companion of 8 out of 10 women during menopause, can be utterly exhausting. Imagine the frustration of being so tired physically and mentally but lying awake through the darkest hours with worrying thoughts.


Anxiety and Joint Pain: For 7 out of 10 women, menopause brings anxiety and joint pain, akin to having an unwanted coworker – one that slows you down and makes every task feel more challenging, especially if you're already in a phyiscally demanding job.


Brain Fog: Brain fog affects 70% of us. It's those moments when your mind inexplicably goes blank during a critical meeting, and you struggle to recall crucial information or simply feel like your cognitive abilities have taken a vacation. I know that when I feel like I have fudge in my head I give up trying to do any work that requires a sensible thought process!


Loss of Confidence: The confidence that we've painstakingly built over the years takes a hit – 72% of women going through menopause experience this too. It's as if a sudden lack of self-belief infiltrates every aspect of your professional life. Imposter syndrome takes over and if you have to give a presentation whilst also suffering with brain fog this can lead to extreme anxiety further increasing stress.


Lack of Support: Shockingly, 84% of women say they receive no support at work during menopause. Picture yourself navigating this significant life change all alone, without the understanding and assistance you so desperately need.


Thinking of Leaving: 1 in 3 women is contemplating leaving the workforce entirely. That's a staggering 4.5 million menopausal women contemplating walking away from careers they've dedicated years to, all due to the challenges menopause transition presents.



These statistics tell an alarming story and it's heightened with the present generation of workin women. We've had career building, longer hours, looking after a family, media persuasion to exercise hard and cut out healthy fats, your body is starved of nutrients. Then you cut into your sleep to get extra work done, and then you have taking care of your parents, whilst you still have relatively young children at home because you had babies later to not affect your career progression. All of this leads to a perfect storm of insomnia, then the day starts all over again....




I'm often asked: Is the menopause really worse for women now?


YES IT IS. This is why the conversation has broken out of the taboo arena, female celebrities, the Ladettes of the 90s have had an awful time and they're using their voice to talk about it. It started with Meg Matthews (ex Mrs Noel Gallagher) and the owner of her own PR company who talked about her acute anxiety where she couldn't even leave the house to take her daughter to school.




Unpacking Menopause: It's not just a biological change

Before we dive into strategies to cope with menopause at work, it's essential to gain an overview of what menopause entails. Menopause typically occurs around the age of 51, with perimenopause beginning as early as the late 30s or early 40s, with the most common age range being between 44 to 47. showing significant symptoms. Yet, it's more than just a biological shift; it's an emotional rollercoaster that significantly affects our moods, memory, anxiety levels, and sleep patterns.


During perimenopause, women may experience irregular menstrual cycles, fluctuating hormone levels, and a variety of physical common symptoms such as hot flushes, night sweats, mood swings, vaginal dryness, and changes in libido.


It's important to note that menopause is not only a biological shift but also an emotional and psychological journey. The fluctuating hormone levels can have a profound impact on a woman's emotional well-being, leading to mood swings, increased anxiety, and even depression in some severe cases. Disrupted sleep, night sweats, and insomnia are triggered even when tired when going to bed. These sleep disturbances can further contribute to mood swings, daytime fatigue and poor work performance.


In addition to the physical and emotional aspects, menopause is a unique experience for each woman. Factors such as genetics, lifestyle, and overall health can influence the severity and duration of symptoms. Therefore, it's crucial for women to seek support and information to navigate this transformative stage in their lives effectively. It's not about taking medication, or replacing hormones. It's about looking at each womans health and resolving the imbalances that she's experiencing. One of the major areas that benefits all is upping levels of nutrition.



women meeting menopause policy at work

The Workplace Landscape: Navigating the Maze of Menopause

Navigating menopause at work is akin to attempting to solve a complex puzzle with missing pieces. Everyday tasks become formidable obstacles, time management becomes an elusive concept, and motivation often feels like a distant memory. The emotional toll is further exacerbated by physical stress due to hormonal changes, chronic exhaustion, and the added mental strain from managing relationships and caregiving responsibilities.

Moreover, the role of nutrition in managing menopausal symptoms should not be underestimated. I've personally experienced how our diet can either alleviate or exacerbate these challenges. With scientific studies showing that around 90% of brain chemicals are formed in the gut, good nutrition is vital to your overall well-being during this time.


Supportive Strategies for Employers: Bridging the Gap

Let's explore concrete solutions because, having experienced these challenges myself , been in a corporate world for many years and resolved my symptoms physically and emotionally with natural solutions and using chinese medicine to understand how the body and energy works I'm in a unique position to offer practical advice.



Open Communication: Encourage open dialogue with employers and colleagues, to remove the taboos, the jokes and the dismissiveness due to lack of understanding. This can be an open forum for staff and line managers alike. For an employee who is struggling and has highlighted this it's imperative to book meetings at times that align with their needs and discuss their struggles and create a support plan. This process can be transformative, listen to what she has to say and look for health support, emotional support and put a plan into action.


Reference: According to a study published in the Journal of Menopause, open communication in the workplace significantly contributes to a better menopause experience for women.


Create a Supportive Environment: Seek or create a safe space to discuss your challenges. Initiating conversations about menopause in your workplace can be incredibly liberating, as it often brings forth shared experiences and empathy.


Reference: A report by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) highlights the importance of creating supportive environments for women going through menopause.


Collaborative Problem-Solving: Collaborate with your employer to identify issues and implement solutions. You're not alone in this journey, and many organisations are willing to adapt and provide the necessary support once they understand your needs. Look at nutrition, supplements, lifestyle changes, call in someone like me to give you these options!


Reference: A case study on workplace accommodations for menopausal women published by the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) showcases successful collaborative approaches.


Journaling: Keeping a journal to document your symptoms and challenges can provide valuable insights and help you track your progress. It's also an effective way to communicate your needs and progress with your employer.


Reference: Psychologist Dr. Elizabeth Sibler emphasizes the therapeutic benefits of journaling in managing the emotional aspects of menopause.


Visual Aids and Bite-sized Goals: Use visual aids to break down job concerns into achievable, manageable tasks. This approach reduces overwhelm and provides you with a clear and structured path forward.


Reference: Research by Dr. Angela Atkins, a workplace productivity expert, underscores the effectiveness of visual goal-setting for managing complex tasks during menopause.


Stress Management: Explore mindfulness techniques and consider incorporating power naps as the 3pm slump is a real issue, with reduced brain function. Create a routine to regain composure and focus during stressful times. It's crucial to prioritize your mental and emotional well-being.


Reference: Studies published in the Journal of Behavioral Medicine suggest that mindfulness practices and short naps can significantly reduce stress and enhance cognitive function.



3pm at work - slump time

Menopause in the Workplace: Take Action with Empathy and Support

Menopause in the workplace is a very real and substantial challenge for women who have walked this path. Employers can make a profound difference by understanding these challenges, providing tailored support, and promoting overall wellness. This wisdom and support not only lead to healthier and happier workplaces but also empowers women to navigate this transition with grace and resilience. Remember the goverment has set the goal of 67, let's help women achieve this!

The menopause transition is a potent phase of our lives – one that shapes us, empowers us, and ultimately makes us stronger women. Together, we have the power to dismantle the barriers of misunderstanding, creating workplaces where every woman can thrive, regardless of the stage of life she's in. Remember, you're not alone, and there is support available. Together, we can confidently face this chapter of life with strength and dignity, knowing that we have the knowledge, support, and resilience to thrive in our professional lives during menopause.

Understanding the multifaceted nature of menopause, including its biological, emotional, and psychological aspects, is vital for women and those around them to provide the necessary support and guidance during this transition. At the workplace, acknowledging these complexities is essential for creating a supportive and inclusive environment for women going through menopause.

Contact Andrea to talk about Menopause in the workplace

I believe in combining understanding with action. Every week, I effectively assist numerous women in transforming their physical and emotional well-being and guide them on their journey back into the workforce. This is a pivotal mission I undertake, particularly with women holding substantial roles within various organizations. Such support shouldn't be a privilege available only to those who can afford it privately; it should be readily accessible to every line manager, at their fingertips.


Many places have a menopause policy, so that they can talk to and sympathetically listen to women but what many places don't have is how to help these women resolve their symptoms, as ultimately this is what is needed. So why not combine the two? Understanding with a strong guide to practical solutions that women can step through to see results, reduce symptoms such as brain fog, increase their sleep, having an overall positive impact in their worklife?


I offer two talks, one for everyone about the pitfalls and solutions of the menopause transition, and the second specifically targeted for line management to help them help their staff, themselves or their loved ones. Men are always welcome, though some women don't feel they can talk openly and so I offer male and female talks too!





Andrea Marsh, Menopause Specialist giving talk on menopause in the workplace

Meet Andrea


Andrea is a shiatsu and chinese medicine practitioner who uses the principles of chinese medicine in a completely practical way to help you resolve your symptoms naturally and effectively. If you live locally you can book in for wonderfully relaxing Shiatsu for Menopause, otherwise Andrea does online indepth consultations where you'll leave with an actionable plan to follow. Andrea is also passionate about doing workplace talks.



KNOWLEGE . PAUSE . FLOURISH

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